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Thread: PurpleHeart

  1. #1

    PurpleHeart

    I may be opening myself up to ridicule, but here goes. I know that in time PurpleHeart will lose its colour and turn various shades of brown. I also think I remember reading that freshly milled surfaces will once again show the purple colour. So I picked up a nice 4/4 board at my local retailer. It wasn't very colourful already showing areas of brown. Yet it was more purple than brown overall. But no amount of fresh milling would reveal the purple colour. My questions:
    1) is it possible the board was milled so long ago that it has turned brown through and through?
    2) if #1 is true how do I account for the mauve coloration on all 4 sides of the board in the retailer's bin? Is there such a thing as "counterfeit" PurpleHeart - I,e. Sprayed on colour (yup here is where I expect some ridicule or being the brunt of jokes)

    Thank you
    Cary Wheeler
    Windsor Ontario Canada
    "Honest honey! That isn't a new tool you're looking at. That was my grandfathers. Yes, they had yellow Dewalt tools back in the 30's"

  2. #2
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    Christchurch New Zealand
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    Place it out in sunlight should change to purple.

  3. #3
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    I've heard that about sunlight changing it back to purple, but it will go brown again. I've stayed away from it because of its reputation for going that particularly unattractive shade of brown, so no personal experience.

  4. #4
    This has come up before. I have used Purpleheart quite a bit. One of my bathroom vanities has solid Purpleheart doors, drawer faces, end panel, baseboard, and door trim. Although the purple color doesn't quite pop like it did when new about 20 years ago, it still has a rich purple hue that in no way resembles brown. I can't remember which finish I used. It was either conventional vinyl sealer followed by waterborne top coat or just pre cat solvent based lacquer. The vanity still has the original finish which is in excellent shape, especially considering it gets daily use. I have used both finishes on Purpleheart, and the long term appearance seems to be the same with both. An oil finish however, will ultimately turn the Purpleheart brown

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    My experience is the same as Robs...yes, there is some color change, but the nightstand bases in our master bedroom are still clearly purple heart. It has a "maroonish" tint now, but is still quite pleasing. The purpleheart in my main benchtop has aged similarly.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
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    Nov 2009
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    Alaska
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    I have not worked with this wood before, but I did buy some a few ago, thinking it would look cool in a cutting board..... When I was talking to the sales rep (who is an accomplished woodworker), he told me that it changes color with heat. He even demonstrated this by cutting it with a chop saw, but going slow with the cut to allow the blade to get it nice and hot. Massive change in color where the blade was slower. Not brown, but a more intence and vibrant shade of purple. I do not have a briliant idea how one would exploit this trait, but thought I'd share the info in case someone else might.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Corcoran, MN
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cary Wheeler View Post
    I may be opening myself up to ridicule, but here goes. I know that in time PurpleHeart will lose its colour and turn various shades of brown. I also think I remember reading that freshly milled surfaces will once again show the purple colour. So I picked up a nice 4/4 board at my local retailer. It wasn't very colourful already showing areas of brown. Yet it was more purple than brown overall. But no amount of fresh milling would reveal the purple colour. My questions:
    1) is it possible the board was milled so long ago that it has turned brown through and through?
    2) if #1 is true how do I account for the mauve coloration on all 4 sides of the board in the retailer's bin? Is there such a thing as "counterfeit" PurpleHeart - I,e. Sprayed on colour (yup here is where I expect some ridicule or being the brunt of jokes)

    Thank you
    Cary - Use a heatgun and watch the wood turn the purple you had hoped for. I don't know if a hairdryer will heat the wood sufficiently.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cary Wheeler View Post
    I may be opening myself up to ridicule, but here goes. I know that in time PurpleHeart will lose its colour and turn various shades of brown. I also think I remember reading that freshly milled surfaces will once again show the purple colour. So I picked up a nice 4/4 board at my local retailer. It wasn't very colourful already showing areas of brown. Yet it was more purple than brown overall. But no amount of fresh milling would reveal the purple colour. My questions:
    1) is it possible the board was milled so long ago that it has turned brown through and through?
    2) if #1 is true how do I account for the mauve coloration on all 4 sides of the board in the retailer's bin? Is there such a thing as "counterfeit" PurpleHeart - I,e. Sprayed on colour (yup here is where I expect some ridicule or being the brunt of jokes)

    Thank you
    Cary,

    This article might be useful, info about wood color: https://www.wood-database.com/wood-a...-exotic-woods/
    It talks about Purpleheart and also briefly mentions using dyes. (One guy told me he applied dye to completed woodturnings using an airbrush.)

    Also this, from the same web site: https://www.wood-database.com/purpleheart/
    "When freshly cut the heartwood of Purpleheart is a dull grayish/purplish brown. Upon exposure the wood becomes a deeper eggplant purple. With further age and exposure to UV light, the wood becomes a dark brown with a hint of purple. This color-shift can be slowed and minimized by using a UV inhibiting finish on the wood."


    I love turning Purpleheart on the lathe. I have a good stock of it and I've encountered several types.

    One type I have is mostly dark brown on the surface of the board - perhaps the boards are old. When freshly cut is always a light brown inside but gradually turns into a nice purple. This could explain the outside color you saw at the dealer. I've always heard that light will accelerate the color change and pieces I left on the window sill did turn purple. However, I also wonder if oxidation plays some part. As an experiment I put a small freshly cut block on a shelf in a dark corner of my garage and left it undisturbed for some time. The sides exposed to the air had turned purple while the surface against the shelf was still brown. I have some things turned from this 15-20 years ago and they are definitely darker and with less purple color now than I remember.

    Some years ago I got some Purpleheart that was entirely different. It was purple on the surface and freshly cut surfaces were immediately a wonderful purple. I've made some woodturnings from it which have not changed much in maybe 6 years. This was with a finish applied but the offcuts in the stack with no finish didn't change either. The guy I got it from said he thought his dad said it came from Mexico. Wish I could find some more like that.

    Then a couple of years ago I bought some Purpleheart from a friend who had a huge stack of long boards. In digging through the stack I found a couple with a unique lighter purple on the rough sawn surface. When I sawed these in half for storage they were also immediately the same purple inside, no waiting! You can see one in this photo. I haven't turned anything from it yet.

    Dec_2020_005.jpg

    All this makes be wonder if there is significant variety in Purpleheart from different areas, or like some other wood, from different trees grown under different conditions. Perhaps some never gets a strong purple color.

    BTW, the late Jim King who exported wood from Peru told me he didn't understand the fascination here with Purpleheart. He said where he lived it was considered construction lumber and used for floor joists and things.

  9. #9
    Purpleheart is very dull / "gray" when it's first milled. It will brighten up considerably with time and light. I've yet to see Purpleheart turn brown.

  10. #10
    My experience with purpleheart is that it mills fresh as marroon. A day in direct sunlight will turn it purple. A year in moderate sunlight exposure will turn it maroon again.

    Purpleheart is not for the faintofheart. It's hard and extremely splintery. Caveat emptor.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Corcoran, MN
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    283
    ​Effect of heat.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
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    Itapevi, SP - Brazil
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter White View Post
    Place it out in sunlight should change to purple.
    Purple Heart is native in Brazil. Curiously it have been used for centuries as "construction lumber".

    The way Peter suggested is commonly used. Some prefer to use a heat blower gun.

    There are some more exotic and dubious ways including chemical but usually they come from less reliable sources.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Michigan
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    Hola Seņor Cristo

    You are in a unique position to look at old construction lumber. What does it look like in various lighting and ages? What about finishes? Are there different varieties? What about sapwood?

    We get very nice, straight grained stock from big, old trees. Is there a lot of it and is the harvest sustainable? We worry about your forest.

    Thank you for any reply.
    Last edited by Tom Bender; 01-09-2022 at 8:20 AM.

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